Cultivating habits

Author and speaker Parker Palmer calls us to heal the heart of democracy. His reflections are strikingly analogous to the function of the healing matrix. Palmer writes, “When all of our talk about politics is either technical or strategic, to say nothing of partisan and polarizing, we loosen or sever the human connections on which empathy, accountability, and democracy itself depend. He names five interlocking habits necessary for healing our wounded efforts at democracy:

  • We must understand that we are all in this together.
  • We must develop an appreciation of the value of “otherness.”
  • We must cultivate the ability to hold tension in life-giving ways.
  • We must generate a sense of personal voice and agency.
  • We must strengthen our capacity to create community.

Like the healing matrix, these habits rely on establishing a local platform upon which to give and receive assistance from diverse groups, allowing tension to be a signal for further growth. Individuality is preserved even as community shapes the whole. As we began navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, we gained a fresh understanding of our interdependence upon each other. The old and fragile relied on the young and strong to avoid contagion. The health workers depended upon the sanitation workers, and everyone depended upon the farm laborers. All were called to sacrifice something for the good of another, and tension did build as we were stretched into new ways of interacting with one another. Many preexisting arrangements for meeting the individual needs of people, whether for food, medicine, comfort, worship opportunities, or even companionship in death, had to be built anew. 

From “Designed to Heal: What the Body Shows Us About Healing Wounds, Repairing Relationships, and Restoring Community” by Jennie A. McLaurin and Cymbeline Tancongco Culiat